Focus: Dog Fighting in Buffalo

"It's Prevalent in Western New York"

USA Today


Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - An issue that has arisen from the decision to euthanize Charlie, a dog rescued from a garbage tote, is dog fighting.

The SPCA Serving Erie County does not have proof that Charlie was involved in fighting, but he showed behavior consistent with dog fighting.  "Some of the backlash over Charlie is whether or not these animals can be rehabilitated," said Chief Communications Officer Gina Browning. For every single animal, the answer is different."

"Once the Michael Vick case happened, that blew the lid off dog fighting" said Browning. In the 12 years since, there's a big misconception by the public about the case. "Not all the Vick dogs were rehabilitated. Out of 51 dogs, 47 survived. Some dogs exhibited some levels of aggression and were euthanized".  Others exhibited fear which manifested itself in submission.

Dog fighting is prevalent in Western New York.  "For people who think it's in New York City, L.A. and Chicago, you need to add Buffalo to that list," said Browning. "It's a dangerous business, and that's why it's clandestine."

According to Aaron Kandefer, Chief Investigative Officer for the SPCA, these dogs typically start training at around 4 weeks of age. By 8 weeks, they're in mock fights with one another and exhibiting aggression toward other dogs. 

Kandefer describes the fighting in Buffalo as "organized" and said it's extremely difficult to track the rings. "When a fight is scheduled, it will change locations five or six times before a final location is given out.  They go from location to location to location before they get to their final destination".

Browning said that is the reason the SPCA responds to anonymous tips. "Very often it's associated with weapons and drugs and lots of money. It's dangerous and there could be retaliation."

For those who followed the case of Charlie at the SPCA, it was a stark contrast to see videos of the dog in what appeared to be a loving state, sitting in someone's lap, and then to hear that the dog was biting through steel bars of his cage.  Kandefer helped explain the disconnect.  "These dogs receive rigorous training and a dog that is trained to fight is not supposed to exhibit any aggression toward humans.  They can be incredibly social and friendly with people. It's sounds and sights of other dogs that rile them up."

When it comes to the case of Charlie, Gina Browning wants to see something to come out of it.  She said the Michael Vick case was pivotal in getting people to stop thinking of fighting dogs as weapons, but as victims.  She is hoping that happens here. "Charlie's death can't be in vain," she said. 




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